HSE Press Release: Tuesday, 28th July 2020
Ireland reaches interim 2020 WHO hepatitis C targets
New oral treatments cure 9 out of 10 people with hepatitis C
Treatments are extremely effective and are provided free by the HSE
Everyone can get tested – if you use drugs or alcohol, you can still be treated for hepatitis C
Hepatitis C treatment services remain open around the country
This World Hepatitis Day, Tuesday 28th July 2020, the HSE National Hepatitis C Treatment Programme is highlighting the new advancements in treatment for hepatitis C and is encouraging people who think they may have been at risk to get tested.
Previously, many people’s experience of hepatitis C treatment included weekly injections over a year with side effects that mimic the symptoms of the flu – with less than a 50% chance of being cured.
Now, Hepatitis C treatment has been transformed by new, extremely effective, tablet-only medicines with minimal side effects. These new medicines, known as direct-acting antivirals (or DAAs) are very effective drugs, curing hepatitis C in more than 95% of cases.
The HSE is committed to promoting widespread access to new and highly effective DAAs. Under the clinical leadership of Professor Aiden McCormick, the HSE National Hepatitis C Treatment Programme aims to provide everyone in Ireland infected with hepatitis C access to free DAA medicines. To date, over 5,000 patients in Ireland have been treated with highly effective DAA's for hepatitis C. Current data suggests that Ireland has reached the 2020 targets and is on track to achieve the 2030 WHO elimination targets.
On World Hepatitis Day, the HSE is appealing to those who are undiagnosed in Ireland, who may be anxious or hesitant about getting tested or treated, to come forward. We strongly urge people who are concerned that they may have been exposed to Hep C to get tested. We also want to allay the fears of people with hepatitis C that the medicines we use now are more effective, easier to tolerate and have shorter treatment courses than ever before.
Professor Aiden McCormick, HSE Clinical Lead for the HSE National Hepatitis C Treatment Programme has the following advice: “For people with hepatitis C, the outlook has never been better. Our treatment programme provides free access to direct acting antiviral (DAA) tablets. DAA tablets are the safest and most effective medicines for treating hepatitis C. They’re highly effective at curing hepatitis C in more than 95 per cent of people. Traditional hepatitis C treatments came with a long list of side effects and were neither as quick nor as effective as these new drugs. We must keep getting the message out that hepatitis C can be cured with a short course of easy-to-take tablets, and that anyone who has ever been at risk should get tested.”
Speaking on World Hepatitis Day 2020, Frank Feighan, Minister of State with responsibility for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy, said: “Today is a stark reminder to anyone who may think that they are at risk of hepatitis C, or may have been in the past, to get tested. Hepatitis C often doesn't have any clear symptoms until the liver has been significantly damaged. This means that today, many people are infected without realising it.
“This is why it is so important to raise awareness about this issue and to get the message out there that we can treat and cure hepatitis C. If you have any concerns, the first step is to get tested and, if needed, you can access free treatment under the National Hepatitis C Treatment Programme.”
Marie O’Grady, Programme Manager, HSE National Hepatitis C Treatment Programme, says: “Over 5,000 patients in Ireland have been treated with highly effective, direct acting antiviral drugs (DAA's) for hepatitis C. It’s vital that we maintain this momentum to reach the 2030 WHO target of making hepatitis C a rare disease by 2030. With highly effective treatments available through the HSE, there is no reason for anyone to be living with Hepatitis C. We need to urgently find those still living with an undiagnosed infection and support them to access treatment.”
Do you think you might be at risk? More information on at-risk groups, supports, including where to get tested, can be found at www.hse.ie/hepc.
Last updated on: 28 / 07 / 2020